You can’t change a culture without communication. Unisys Corporation, Blue Bell, PA
Opportunity: Help a Fortune 500 company brand a corporate university and change the image of training for employees worldwide, aid recruitment and retention and build an image of employer of choice.
Process: Build a dedicated marketing function for the university to include IT and registrar personnel to assure seamless integration of technology and customer service. Build career development tools for employees. Create and execute a strategic internal and external marketing plan.
Result: Key media placements in The Wall Street Journal, Fortune Magazine, Information Week, Business Week, and others. University Intranet rated the second highest rated in company. Training use at record levels with 22,000 employees (of 34,000) receiving training. Marketing team was selected to present at the prestigious Corporate University conference.
The “AHA” Moment: This was actually an easy one. Either the university would succeed and that meant having dedicated marketing support or it would fail by having this as just another duty under corporate communications. It was then about building a business case to build a marketing function.
The Story: In early 1999, Unisys Corporation, a Fortune 500 information technology leader, was about to embark on a culture change initiative that would affect every one of its 34,000 worldwide employees. Plans were in the works for the creation of a corporate learning organization, Unisys University.
Training had been part of Unisys for many years. But, it had been purely reactive, responding to a business need at hand and not anticipating market trends and business needs to come. The University was about to change that. And that was critical for Unisys. It had already found, through research, that their employees were the key differential that made Unisys stand out in clients’ minds. In fact, an entire corporate branding position was built around the theme of Unisys creative, tenacious, technically-excellent workforce. But that brand had to be lived day in and day out. The University was going to help. Training would now be focused so that employees could proactively gain the skills that would help the corporation to deliver on the brand promise that its advertising conveyed.
Schools were set up along critical business lines of the company. And Deans, business unit leaders, were appointed to lead curriculum committees in the development of training paths for employees. Employees had career paths that showed their next most likely career option as well as other careers available in the company. Now, training paths were being developed to accompany these. So, you could see the careers that you could move into and you could actively prepare yourself for the career move.
Now all of that was a lot to swallow. And, as the University was being developed, a critical component was missing – marketing and communication. This initiative was going to change how employees’ approached their careers. There was a need to communicate not just the practical tools that they would be using to access and register for training but also to communicate the reason it was being done, why it was critical that they participate and how crucial it was to company success.
The most significant counsel that we provided to Unisys was building a case that clearly spelled out the significant need for a dedicated communication and marketing function, directly reporting to the University vice president. This was not a function that could be handled by corporate communications “when they got around to it.”
It called for the technical web developers to report to the function because the messages developed had to come first with the web tools complementing them. In addition to a team of communication experts on staff, the University registrar function would need to report to the function. The reasoning was simple. The function was acting as the public relations representative of the University to internal audiences. The registrar was the function that all employees would come in contact with as they started registering for training and it was vital that registrars convey the right image. They were the employees’ first perception of the University and employees would judge the University by their experience with the registrars.
The case for building a team worked and a team was put in place to develop the overall strategy for the marketing of the University. Sophisticated web-based career development tools were developed. Prior to launch, employees were given weekly University updates through both intranet communications and through infomercials on the Unisys television network. As launch approached, special management communications were developed and briefing sessions staged. A live hour-long television program launched the University internally but that was just the start. For all of the sophisticated communications options available, none could replace going on the road with a grassroots campaign to explain the University to employees face to face. And so a worldwide tour ensued.
Did it work? The University communication team completely aligned the University branding with the corporate branding. And that played well “on the street” with media placements secured in The Wall Street Journal, Fortune Magazine, Information Week, Business Week, and others. The University Intranet was the second highest rated in company. Training use was at record levels with 22,000 employees (of 34,000) receiving some type of training by end of year, 1999. And the marketing team was selected to present at the prestigious Corporate University conference that year.